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MCHS Awards Program

Did you know that every year we give awards out to Montgomery County citizens at our annual meeting? Below are descriptions of the different awards we have. Do you know of someone who is deserving of one of these awards? Please send us an email with their nomination!

2014 Annual Meeting Award Picture. From left to right: Sherry Harris (current board member), Ruth Johnson (former board member, awardee), Chuck Sommer (current board member), Steve Frees (former board member, former director)

Montgomery County Historical Society Awards Program

Purpose of the Awards Program

The Montgomery County Historical Society conducts an annual Awards Program to establish, encourage, and foster standards of excellence in the collection, preservation, restoration, and interpretation of local and county history throughout Montgomery County.


For many years, the Society has given awards and recognition to members and other citizens of the county who have performed a service, or written articles or books commemorating historical events. These achievements have been of great value in recording, documenting, and preserving the rich and colorful history of Montgomery County. Thus, the program has always been one of recognition for quality, and for excellence.

Award Categories

A. The Gronert-Bowerman Award in Education

This award honors two distinguished historians, Theodore Gregory Gronert and John Bowerman.

Wabash College history professor and local history author Theodore Gregory Gronert (1886-1988 ) was born in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, and received three degrees from the University of Wisconsin. He taught at Texas State College for Women and the University of Arkansas before coming to teach history at Wabash College in 1924. His published works include histories of Wabash College and Montgomery County. Dozens of his articles on local history were published in the Journal-Review. He authored Sugar Creek Saga, and was largely responsible for an increased interest in local history.

John Bowerman (1921-1988) was born in Alamo, Indiana and graduated from Alamo High School. He was a graduate of Wabash College with a Masters Degree from Indiana State University. Member of a pioneer family which came to the county from Ohio in 1836, he was a teacher, coach, principal, and county superintendent of schools for 17 years, then trust officer for First National Bank, Crawfordsville. Active in many local organizations, he was designated County Historian. He also researched local places and wrote many articles for the local paper.

This award shall be given to an individual or group for creation, initiation, and presentation of a project to record, edit, and preserve recollections relating to the community which furthers the education and understanding of past historical heritage among the citizenry and youth.

B. The Michael David Hall Award for Restoration

This award remembers the distinguished service Michael David Hall gave as the first Executive Director of the Historical Society from 1987-2002. Havana, Illinois native, historical writer and researcher, he added to our knowledge of the Lanes and their period of history, lovingly cared for Lane Place, and actually rebuilt the members room, office, and back entry from ruins.

This award shall be given to an individual or group whose efforts of accurate restoration of a structure or site has preserved a significant feature in the heritage of local Montgomery County history.

C. The Herr-Tannenbaum Award for Preservation

This award preserves the memory of Shirl Herr (1875-1936), cattle farmer in the New Market area, who as president of the Historical Society Board first convinced the board to save the John Speed cabin then located at Grant and North Streets, and to place it in Milligan Park. He was a Culver Hospital board member, inventor of the metal detector, who was a key figure in saving the Lane Place from falling into uncertain and questionable ownership.

Max Tannenbaum (1899-1984), financier, stock broker, whose will provides income for the historical society for his tireless efforts to transfer the ownership of the Lane Place to the Society.

This award shall be given to an individual or group who has saved a dwelling, public building, business structure, or local site of historical or architectural significance, from demolition, destruction or loss from neglect, thus preserving a noteworthy piece of local and county history.

D. The Kennedy-Ristine Award

This award honors outstanding community-minded men who helped make the Historical Society an entity with purpose.

Dumont Kennedy (1861-1934) was mayor of Crawfordsville from 1918- 1922 and 1926-1930. He was the son of Peter Kennedy, a Crawfordsville attorney who, with Lew Wallace, advocated the recording of Crawfordsville’s court and vital records, and was a founder of the Old Settlers, a group dedicated to the preservation of Montomery’s pioneer history. Also an attorney, Dumont, took up the reins of historic preservation from his father, adding to his pioneer collection of artifacts, and, in 1912, founding the Montgomery County Historical Society. There was great enthusiasm for this among local groups, notable the DAR and surviving pioneers.

The organization immediately began planning for the Indiana State Centennial in 1916, and held a memorable pageant in Crawford’s Woods, the site today of the Ivy Hills neighborhood. Dumont both planned and acted in this historical drama, which reenacted Montgomery County events from William Offield’s arrival to the present (1916).

Later, in 1922, during his first term as mayor, he conducted a Centennial rededication of the Offield Monument, attended by hundreds, including speeches and an original poem by Mary Hannah Krout. This was in honor of the Montgomery County Centennial, and the week of celebrations ended with John W. Oliver, president of the Indiana Historical Society, speaking on behalf of the preservation of county records, and The Musical Amateurs presenting pioneer music. There were numerous centennials in that decade and into the next, including the Elston Bank, various churches, the Crawfordsville, and the Record. Presumably the Depression brought an end to such exuberance, at least temporarily.

This award shall be presented to an individual through whose efforts an organization, or chapter of a national organization, has been established which commemorates and honors our historical heritage.

E. The Krout-Wallace Award of Literature or Journalism

This award honors General Lew Wallace (1827-1905), famous author, statesman, inventor, and resident Mary Hannah Krout (1851-1927), outstanding journalist, writer of 11 books, feminist, world traveler, lecturer who wrote “Little Brown Hands” at age 15, and who completed Wallace’s autobiography of 1906.

This award shall be given to an individual author or co-authors who have written and published a work or works which are meritorious, well- researched, accurate, original, and which represent(s) a meaningful contribution to an historical subject of local and county interest.

F. The Joanna Elston Lane Award in Decorative Art

This award honors “Auntie” Lane’s ability to collect and share lovely antiques. As daughter of the Elstons, and becoming the hostess of Lane Place upon marrying Henry Smith Lane, she remains our heroine of furnishings and style in the house. Popular hostess in Washington, D.C., writer of the only known piece about Ambrose Whitlock, and only woman admitted to a mosque in her time.

It is to be presented to an individual, group, or organization for the most authentic recreation of an interior room, rooms, or entire house, decorated and refurbished to reflect, in not actually duplicate, the past design for living appropriate to the house and its domestic history. Professional decorators or those engaged in a business of interior design shall not be considered for this award.

G. The Henry S. Lane Award of Distinction

The Award of Distinction will be the Society’s only award to be given a living native or citizen of Montgomery County who has achieved fame or distinction at the national and/or state level and thus brought honor to his/her home community. It will, consequently, be granted infrequently and only in recognition of very distinguished accomplishments.

H. The Schlemmer-Vance Award in Art

This award honors Fred Vance and Fritz Schlemmer.

Fred Vance (1880-1926), artist, famous for his murals in the Pike Street Elks Club, who studied in Paris, created the wide and short enigmatic oil painting in the Lane Place dining room as well as the emblem for the Crawfordsville Art League.

Fritz Schlemmer, one of Crawfordsville’s best-loved and best remembered artists, was born in Crawfordsville on September 26, 1892, the son of Otto and Louise Miller Schlemmer. Otto was a successful businessman, a fact attested to by a building on the corner of Market and Green Streets which bears his name across its ornate arched balcony, and the year ‘1899’ along its roof peak.

After C.H.S., Fritz attended Wabash College for one year, then transferred to the Art Institute of Chicago. He spent six years there, the last two as a graduate instructor. In 1917, he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, serving with the 89th at Toul and St. Mihiel, returning in 1919 to the U.S. and to Crawfordsville in 1923.

He established a studio over Ecker’s Bakery, on East Main Street. While at the studio he taught art classes and began energetically painting the local scene. He also did many commissioned portraits of local people which are treasured today in homes throughout the state and in museums and other collections.

Fritz had other studios downtown in the thirties, and some of his favorite subjects were old or out-of-work men who spent time sitting on the court- house curb, spitting tobacco and watching the passers-by. Theses people had time to spend sitting and talking in his studio, and the result was some marvelous character studies.

In 1924, Fritz married Bernice Deane. They had one daughter, Beverly. Bernice Schlemmer was the co-owner of the Fannie-Bee dress shop in Crawfordsville. In 1939, Schlemmer was appointed Wabash College’s first Artist-in-Residence, with studios in Peck Hall, then upstairs east in Yandes, (now the Detchon Center). Wabash students, and several locals as well, studied art with Fritz, and got the benefit of Fritz’s many other interests. The Wabash Bulletin describes his studio as “always a place in which to tie a fly, to improve one’s ping-pong serve, or to argue politics, religion, war, or whatnot. Schlemmer’s studio, as many a Wabash man has learned, overflows with information on a number of subjects—art included—and entertainment of various sorts.” Fritz died in 1947 of Addison’s disease, at age 54.

This award shall be presented to a Montgomery County artist, author, composer or playwright whose original paintings, sculpture, play, musical composition or dance is of a recognized quality and standard as to stimulate interest in and appreciation of our county, its historical figures or events.

Eligibility for Awards

A. General Definition

As a general rule, any individual or group living in Montgomery County, or any native of the county whether or not presently residing in the county, is eligible for an award. This would include junior historical societies and other youth groups engaged in local historical activities. It will not be appropriate to make awards to members who are doing what their positions require them to do.

B. Accomplishments vs. Plans

Awards and recognition are to be given for demonstrated accomplishments. Ideas, concepts, and plans are to be awarded only when fully accomplished. Programs that are just started or in progress are not eligible for an award.

C. Frequency of Awards

Awards will be presented as earned in the categories as listed. Therefore, there may be years when there will not be a qualifying nomination for all categories in which case there will be no award presented for that year in that particular category.

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